Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Vladivostok Protesters Disseminate Their Demands via the Internet

Paul Goble

Vienna, December 23 – On a day when many Russian opposition sites are being subjected to massive denial of service attacks and when the government-controlled electronic media are trying to play down the weekend’s events in Vladivostok, the organizers of the protests in that Far Eastern city have disseminated their demands via the Internet.
One of the portals which carries the demands of the protesters noted that those who read them should take note that “not one party or political movement stands behind them. These demands are directed only toward the observance of constitutional norms and a legal order in the country” (babr.ru/?pt=news&event=v1&IDE=49549).
Specifically, the appeal which was issued in the name of “the people of Russia” demands 16 steps from Moscow: First, as they did during their protest meetings in Vladivostok, the group demands the dismissal of the government of Vladimir Putin and “the appointment of a new prime minister and the formation of a new cabinet” to reverse the policies of the current one. Second, it demands the reduction of tariffs on the importation of foreign cars. Third, it demands that the government not try to prohibit the use of cars in Russia which have steering wheels on the right side. Fourth, the group demands a reduction in the price of gasoline for automobiles.
Fifth, it demands that the new government prevent the rise of the cost of communal services. Sixth, it demands an increase in wages and salaries. Seventh, it demands an increase in the size of pensions. Eighth, it demands that the government provide “real financial and material support to small and med-sized companies.
Ninth, it demands that the new government “guarantee an independent and generally acceptable treatment by the means of mass information of the internal problems of the country and free access to such information” and that it eliminate any form of censorship on what the media can cover.
Tenth, it demands that the new government end restrictions on local and regional governments. Eleventh, it demands the reversal of recent legislation that expands the definition of treason in violation of “the UN Charter and the right of the people to self-determination.” Twelfth, it demands that the government respect the country’s Constitution.
Thirteenth, it demands a reduction in the size of the bureaucracy. Fourteenth, it demands the adoption of anti-corruption measures that will genuinely address that problem. Fifteenth, it demands the restoration of the “against all” option in voting at all levels. And sixteenth, the group demands that governors again be elected as they were before Putin’s time in office.
By using Moscow internal troops to suppress the demonstration in Vladivostok rather than finding common ground with the population, Putin has made those who were unhappy with one of his policies – the new tariffs on imported cars -- opponents of his entire approach and even of his entire government.
And consequently, what was a small problem has become a far larger one, however successful Putin and his regime have been so far in concealing what happened in that Far Eastern Russian city and elsewhere in the Russian Federation not only from the Russian people but also from Western governments.

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